Item(s) for the ‘Ismaili News’ Category

Mar 24,2008

From AKDN to Google

Aleem Walji. Photo: Courtesy Aleem Walji.
Aleem Walji. Photo: Courtesy Aleem Walji.

Aleem Walji recently joined ( the philanthropic arm of Google, the world’s largest Internet search engine company, as part of the Global Development team. He brings to Google a broad range of insight in social development drawing on both, his education and his former role as Chief Executive Officer of the Aga Khan Foundation in Syria. The Foundation is an agency of the Aga Khan Development Network ( ). Walji gives us his thoughts on the transition from the AKDN, a network of development agencies, to one that is just starting.

You must be enthusiastic about the prospect of being involved in the founding stages of a social development programme for a global organisation?

This is a very exciting opportunity which comes with enormous responsibility in helping set direction for Our challenge is to leverage Google’s strengths around information and building scalable platforms in ways that can help alleviate poverty in the developing world. Our greatest asset is our people, and their “healthy scepticism towards the impossible.”

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is something that many organisations have worked into their structure. Is Google’s approach different? 

Our approach goes beyond CSR. Our founders created because they had a vision to use the strengths of Google to help humanity and make the world a better place. They have honoured their commitment by devoting approximately 1% of Google’s yearly profits and equity, as well as significant employee time to philanthropy. is a hybrid philanthropy which means we can engage in grant-making like many other foundations, but in addition, can also invest in breakthrough ideas and technologies that may generate a positive financial return. We can also engage in policy and advocacy which gives us tremendous flexibility.

Farmers with Walji and other AKDN staff in a field in Salamieh, Syria. This farm uses drip irrigation to improve crop yield and save water. The AKDN Water Management Programme has scaled up to include hundreds of farmers since its inception in 2003. Photo: Courtesy Aleem Walji.
Farmers with Walji and other AKDN staff in a field in Salamieh, Syria. This farm uses drip irrigation to improve crop yield and save water. The AKDN Water Management Programme has scaled-up to include hundreds of farmers since its inception in 2003. Photo: Courtesy Aleem Walji.

Do you see some synergies in the future with AKDN, whose efforts in the development field are both wide ranging and deeply integrated in the areas they operate?

AKDN and are committed to empowering people to act and make decisions that will improve the quality of their lives. We are just ‘enablers’, we believe citizens drive social change. Both organisations share a belief in the power of entrepreneurship and we believe the private sector has a critical role to play in creating vibrant economies that ultimately sustain social and economic development. And our geographic interests overlap in Eastern Africa and South Asia.

Can you elaborate on the projects outlined under the Global Development team?

We want to increase the flow of capital to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the developing world because they drive economic growth and create jobs, which leads to a more equitable distribution of wealth. We want to demonstrate that SMEs can be profitable and that, in places like Africa and India there can be positive financial and economic returns on investment.

We will also focus on improving the reach and quality of essential public services (such as health, education, water and sanitation) given their disproportionate impact on the poor. We believe in the power of information in empowering citizens, governments, and civil society groups to hold one another to account and make better, more informed decisions.

In Syria,the Water Management Project of the Aga Khan Development Network used a variety of techniques including tunneling to conserve water and brings crops to market earlier in order to increase incomes to farmers. Photo: Courtesy Aleem Walji.
In Syria, the Water Management Programme of the Aga Khan Development Network uses a variety of techniques including tunnelling to conserve water and bring crops to market earlier as a way of increasing the income of farmers. Photo: Courtesy Aleem Walji.

Google has a global reach and a solid reputation. What can we expect from Google’s entry into the social development arena?

We have an opportunity to shine a light on a number of issues that affect our world and affect large numbers of people, particularly the poor. We take this responsibility very seriously. It is essential for us to figure out where and on what issues we can bring the greatest value given our strengths and resources as a company.

We will focus our efforts on five major initiatives: i) Predict and prevent emerging infectious diseases before they become local, regional, or global crises by identifying ‘hot spots’ and providing early warning; ii) Use information to empower citizens, [service] providers, and policy makers to improve the delivery of essential public services such as education, health, water, and sanitation; iii) Fuel the growth of small and medium enterprises by increasing the flow of risk capital to the developing world; iv) Create utility scale electricity from clean renewable energy sources that is cheaper than electricity from coal; and, v) Seed innovation, demonstrate technology, inform the debate, and stimulate market demand to foster mass commercialisation of plug-in vehicles. These are the initiatives in which we will invest our resources as we make our entry into the field of social development.Word

Mar 20,2008

20.03.2008 09:29

Author: Bahrom Mannonov

DUSHANBE, March 20, Asia-Plus  — The Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) has teamed with the Government of Tajikistan and the Government of Afghanistan in organizing Tajik-Afghan cross-border concerts to celebrate the Navrouz holiday.  Concerts are being held today in Khorog, the main town of the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region (Gorno Badakhshan or GBAO) and in neighboring Afghanistan’s Badakhshan province.

Today, singers and musicians from Tajikistan will be crossing the border at the site of the Friendship Bridge in Khorog and performing traditional songs and dances for audiences on the other side of the Panj River.  Tomorrow, Afghan performers will hold a traditional concert program in Khorog.

Ms. Sitora Shokamolova. Communications Officer, AKDN Tajikistan, noted that a group of more than 20 musicians including Umar Timurov and Faizali Hasanov, national singers of Tajikistan, and the local Badakhshani Ensemble headed by Sohiba Davlatova will perform in the open-air area near the Teacher’s Training College in the village of Bashor, Afghanistan.  Afghan performers will join Navrouz celebrations in Khorog and perform their traditional program in an open-air area in the Shosh-Khorog neighborhood.

Despite a common linguistic and cultural heritage between inhabitants of the Tajikistan and Afghanistan, social and economic connections between them have been minimal for the past seventy years.  The Cross-Border Concert is an experience and culture sharing initiative intended to foster regional cooperation. Better understanding amongst the peoples of neighboring countries is seen as a cornerstone of future stability throughout Central Asia.  Cultural relations are regarded as a way of building confidence and trust that can in turn lead to wider cross-border cooperation on alleviating poverty and promoting economic growth.

The Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) is a group of private, non-denominational development agencies working to empower communities and individuals to improve living conditions and opportunities, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, Central and South Asia, and the Middle East.  The Network’s nine development agencies focus on social, cultural and economic development for all citizens, regardless of gender, origin or religion.  The AKDN’s underlying ethic is compassion for the vulnerable in society. Its annual budget for philanthropic activity is in excess of US$ 300 million.

Mar 10,2008

Coastweek – – Members of His Highness Prince Aga Khan
Shia Imami Ismaili Council for Mombasa paid a courtesy
call on His Worship the Mayor, Ahmed Abubakar Mohdhar,
on Monday 10th March 2008. Seen standing [from left] is
Hafiz Mangalji, Rafik Jivraj, Zubeida Dadani, Karim Dawood,
Sahenila Kurji, Zaher Bhanji, His Worship the Mayor. Seated
is President of the Aga Khan Council, Mombasa Narmin Somji.


Coastweek – – H.H. Aga Khan Shia Ismaili Council of Mombasa has been asked by Municipal Council of Mombasa to help in employing graduates from teaching institutions in the town and other areas of Coast.

The appeal was made by the Municipal’s Education Officer (MEO), Mr. Francis Tsuma who said employing of extra teachers would help ease the burden of understaffing in several schools especially in Kongowea, Freretown, Concordia and Maweni areas.

“Employment of more teachers will help the council address the students to teacher’s ratio per class,” said Mr. Tsuma who added that some schools had up to 160 students per class, a number too high for a teacher to handle.

Fifty students are required per class.

Mr. Tsuma was speaking at the Mayor’s parlour during a courtesy call on Mombasa Mayor, Councillor Ahmed Mohdhar by the Aga Khan Shia Ismaili Council members.

The MEO lauded the Ismaili community for their effort of upgrading education standards in Mombasa through efforts to start an early grade reading project.

The project, which is earmarked, to start within the next three months is meant to sensitize teachers to lay strong foundations on reading and number work on nursery school students.

Members of the Aga Khan Council promised to keep up their beautification efforts of the town and if permitted undertake the lighting of the Jomo Kenyatta Avenue in Mombasa as a joint venture with the Municipal Council.

The Aga Khan Council’s President, Ms. Narmin Somji requested the council to speed up efforts of bringing down campaign posters as “they brought back sad memories and were an eyesore in their torn status,” she said.

Coastweek – – Mombasa Mayor Ahmed Abubakar
Mohdhar is seen with Aga Khan Council Mombasa
President Narmin Somji when Members of His High-
ness Prince Aga Khan Shia Imami Ismaili Council for
Mombasa paid the Mayor a mid-week courtesy call.

Ms. Somji also informed His Worship that His Highness the Aga Khan’s Golden Jubilee has been extended to December 2008 and was looking forward to maximum support from the Municipal Council.

As a concerned resident, the community’s Honorary Secretary Zaher Bhanji, noted the disfunctioning of traffic lights at the Kengeleni junction to which the Deputy Mayor, Cllr. John Mcharo promised to look into personally.

Mayor Mohdhar promised to cooperate with the Ismaili community in making Mombasa one of the best towns in the country.

“It is the duty of all of us to work together and make Mombasa a clean city,” he said.

Other members of the Aga Khan Council present were Mrs. Sahenila Kurji, Mr. Karim Dawood, Mr. Rafiq Jivraj, Mr. Hafiz Mangalji and Mrs. Zubeda Dadani.